Congresswoman Liz Cheney Gets Purged from the GTP/”Grand Trump Party” Leadership—Welcome Uber-Trumpist Elise Stefanik May 12, 2021
Members of cults of any kind do not tolerate the slightest bit of dissent. Even though he was removed from office, Demagogue Donald remains in control of the GOP, its leader in exile. Since his 2016 nomination, he has turned the Republican Party from the GOP, G rand O ld P arty into the GTP, the G rand T rump P arty. Trump has made the GOP into a political cult of personality that must always worship him. Anyone on “Team Red” who challenges Donald over his political and economic policies, calls out any of his numerous lies, and voted for his impeachment, must be quickly removed, purged from political leadership. Any incumbent GOPer who criticizes Trump will, additionally, face being “primaried out,” or challenged by a “Trumpier than Thou” candidate. This legislator will face a mob of rabid Trump activists in a GOP primary and can be defeated. Even if this critic of Donald survives a primary, he/she will have to spend oodles of cash to ward off this challenger and lose many former supporters. This legislator’s days will be numbered. Exhibit A—Congresswoman Elizabeth (Liz) Cheney.
Third-term GOP Wyoming Congresswoman-at-Large Liz Cheney (54) represents that entire state (CQ Cong. At Your Fingertips 117th Congress). WY has a population of 579,315 and is the nation’s least populous state. However, WY has an outsize economic role. It is the nation’s leading coal producer. It produces about 40% of the U.S.’s coal, more than three times the share of W. Virginia, the nation’s second-coal producing state. WY ranks eighth in natural gas production and in crude oil production. WY has the nation’s largest uranium reserves and a substantial portion of the country’s helium reserves (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac, CQ Cong. At Your Fingertips 117th Congress).
Besides its economic prowess, WY has a political powerhouse in Cong. Liz Cheney. Nicknamed the Equality State, because it was the first state to grant women the right to vote in 1869, modern WY has had no problem electing and re- electing Liz Cheney. Since 2019, Cong. Cheney has been House Republican Conference Chair, the #3 GOP leadership position. Cheney stands right behind #2 House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and #1 House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), (See nytimes.com, Fandos & Edmondson, Israel, J., americanindependent.com). Liz Cheney constitutes GOP “royalty.” She is the older daughter of Richard (Dick) Cheney. Dick Cheney was Chief-of-Staff to Pres. Gerald Ford. Her father was WY’s former Congressman and GOP House whip, and like his daughter chaired the House GOP Conference. Liz Cheney’s parents co-wrote a history of House leaders called “Kings of the Hill.” Dick Cheney later became H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense and W Bush’s VP for two terms, 2001-2009 (Cohen & Cook 2020, Whipple, C., “The Gatekeepers,”2018, latimes.com, Hook, J., 5/06/21). Liz Cheney’s husband, Philip Perry, is a D.C. attorney who served in several roles during the W Bush years (cnn.com, Serfaty, 5/06/21). Liz Cheney worked for W Bush in the State Department and on his 2004 campaign staff. In 2008, Liz Cheney advised GOP presidential candidates Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. When she decided early in 2020 not to run for an open WY Senate seat, a close associate stated it was in part because she hoped to become the GOP’s first female House Speaker (latimes.com/politics, Hook, J., 5/06/21).
Politically, WY bleeds “Red.” It has a super-crimson R+25 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI). WY has the largest GOP advantage in party affiliation of any state. In 2016, WY was Donald’s best state. He won it by a 46% margin, his biggest in all 50 states, 68%-22%. In 2020, Trump clobbered Biden here by a “mere” 43.3% spread (nbcnews.com/politics, 2/10/21). WY hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970 or to the House since 1976, and usually elects GOP Governors. Presently, WY has a GOP trifecta, a GOP Governor, a State Senate with 28Rs and 2Ds, and a State House with 51Rs and 2Ds (Cohen & Cook 2020.CQ 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips).
Cong.-at-Large Liz Cheney fits well into WY’s hard-right one-party GOP rule. Like her father, she is a fiscal conservative and defense hawk. In the current 117th Congress, Liz Cheney has a 98% score from the right-wing policy advocacy organization Heritage Action (cnn.com, Serfaty, 5/06/21). According to FiveThirtyEight, Cheney voted with Demagogue Donald 92.9% of the time. In 4/2019, Trump praised Cheney in a speech as “so dedicated and loyal (Israel, J., 5/05/21).”
So why are Trump, GOP leaders Cong. McCarthy and Scalise, as well as most of the GOP House caucus behind purging Cheney from her leadership post? It’s simple. Cheney committed the worst possible crimes in GOP World. Cheney, unlike most of her colleagues, including McCarthy and Scalise, lives in the real world, not in the Trump/Fox News delusional bubble. From the start, she opposed Trump’s demand that the House refuse to certify Biden’s Electoral College victory. She was only one of 10 GOPers who voted to impeach Trump over his inciting the 1/06/2021 attempted violent Capitol coup. She continues to repeatedly call out Trump’s foundational “big lie” that he, not Democrat Joe Biden, actually won the 2020 election because Trump votes were “stolen (See Raju & Grayer, cnn.com, 5/04/21, Hunt, J. Hook, latimes.com, 5/06/21).”
Mad “Emperor” Donald holds court at Mar-a-Lago as if he’s still in office. Numerous GOPers repeatedly visit and cravenly genuflect before him to get his endorsements for 2022 and 2024, to keep their “red meat” base from turning on them. McCarthy initially condemned Trump for the 1/06/2021 rioters he incited. Now, McCarthy has done a 360-degree flip flop. McCarthy is currently whitewashing Trump’s role in the 1/06/2021 attempted coup. He made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago after the Capitol riot to “make nice” with “Caligula” Trump (See cnn.com, 5/05/21). After McCarthy backed her, Cheney beat one attempt to purge her for voting to impeach Donald, 145-61. However, not this time (cnn.com, Gangel & Warren, 5/05/21). Caught on a hot mic, Minority “Leader” McCarthy stated, “I’ve had it with her (Cheney). I think she’s got real problems… I’ve lost confidence (in Cheney), (cnn.com, Raju, Grayer, Fox, 5/04/21).” McCarthy, Scalise, and Donald have backed GOP NY Congresswoman Elise Stefanik to take Cheney’s place as the #3 GOP Conference Chair (cnn.com, Raju et al, 5/04/21, & Orr & Fox, 5/05/21). McCarthy has spoken recently with Mar-a-Lago’s “Emperor (cnn.com, 5/05/21 Orr & Fox).” McCarthy claims that Cheney’s anti-Trump impeachment vote isn’t the reason she is being ousted. According to McCarthy, Cheney is being booted because she has “failed to do her job in driving the party’s message to take back the majority (Raju, et al).” Yes, Cheney is failing to drive the party’s only “true” messages-- lying about Donald’s loss and his role in inciting the Capitol riot. Nothing else counts. Ask UT GOP Sen. Mitt Romney. Romney gets hassled by Trump fans at airports and was loudly booed at a UT GOP convention for his two impeachment votes and his belief that Biden won legitimately. Ask GOP IL Cong. Adam Kinzinger. Conservative GOPer Kinzinger faces a primary challenge for voting for impeachment and has attacked Trump’s lies about a stolen election (Collinson, cnn.com, 5/05/21). Cong. Kinzinger stood up for Cheney. Kinzinger stated that since McCarthy gave his “proxy voting card to Donald Trump,” he doesn’t consider McCarthy to be speaking on behalf of the party (cnn.com, Wilson, K., 5/10/21). Kinzinger, Romney, and Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan have joined Cheney in the GOP wilderness for daring to challenge Demagogue Donald.
Cheney is not going “gently into the political night.” In a Washington Post op-ed, Cheney aptly declared, “The GOP is at a ‘turning point,’ and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.” Cheney stated, “We must decide whether to accept or reject Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, which provoked the violence on January 6 and could provoke violence again. Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work—confidence in the result of the elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this.” Cheney called out House Minority Leader McCarthy for “changing his story on Trump’s responsibility for the riots.” Cheney repeated her view that Republicans should “steer away from the dangerous and anti-democratic Trump cult of personality” if it hopes to win national elections in the future. She added, “History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term consequences might be (cnn.com, Gangel & Warren, 5/05/21).”
The rest of the GOP leadership and its rank-and-file, not surprisingly, ignored Cheney’s warnings. They cast their lot with “Demagogue/Emperor Donald” and his destructive cult of personality so they can rev up their rabid Trumpist base for midterm election 2022 and presidential election 2024. In her parting remarks before the vote to purge her, Cheney was booed by her “colleagues.” She urged GOPers “not to let the former president drive us backward.” Cheney warned GOPers that they were going down a path that would bring “destruction and possibly the destruction of our country.” Cheney stated, “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie (of the stolen 2020 election) emboldens the liar. I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine democracy.” Cheney declared that if the party wanted a leader who would “enable and spread his destructive lies,” they should vote to remove her (nytimes.com, 5/12/21, Edmondson & Fandos).”
The House GOP Trump lemmings did just that. In a 5/12/2021 brief but raucous closed-door meeting in a Capitol Hill auditorium, Cong. Liz Cheney was removed/purged by voice vote. GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pushed his GOP robots not to hold a normally recorded vote which would show the count of the votes for and against Cheney. McCarthy succeeded in getting his “Red mob” to hold a voice vote “to show unity.” Translation: “we’re all 10,000% in lockstep behind Trump and we brook no showing of dissent.” Just before the vote, “Dear Mad Leader Donald” stated he was “looking forward to the ouster of a woman he called ‘a poor leader, a major Democrat talking point, a warmonger, and a person with absolutely no personality or heart (nytimes.com, Edmondson & Fandos, 5/12/21).’”
Cheney’s replacement? From the minute Cheney looked vulnerable in Trump “Congressworld,” 4th term Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (36) from New York had thrown her hat into the race for GOP Conference Chair. Her taking Cheney’s place was soon a “done deal.” GOPers, knew that to replace a woman with a man in this #3 leadership post would constitute terrible optics. Remember, GOPers won more than half a dozen congressional seats in 2020 by recruiting blacks, Hispanics, and, especially women to show that “hey we can’t be the right-wing wackos Democrats call us.” Never mind that these ultimate winners are just as reactionary as their white male GOP counterparts.
Elise Stefanik (stef-AH-nick) currently represents NY’s 21st Congressional District (CD) in Upstate NY. It is the Empire State’s largest district and one of the biggest in the U.S. It covers most of NY’s North Country starting at Lake Champlain. It is a rural district that runs westward along the St. Lawrence Seaway and over the Adirondacks Forest Preserve to Lake Ontario and borders VT to the east and Canada to the north. The few cities in the 21st CD, including Lake Placid, Plattsburgh, Glens Falls, and Watertown contain less than 30,000 residents. Politically, the 21st CD is ancestrally GOP and inclined toward moderate Republicans. It has an R+4 Cook Partisan Voting Index (PVI). The 21st voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but then for Trump in 2016 and 2020. The town of Willsboro, where Stefanik moved before she was first elected to Cong. in 2014, is part of the 21st’s Essex County. Essex County was extremely “swingy.” It voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, for Trump in 2016, and for Biden in 2020 (cnn.com, Foran, Jones, Boxer, 5/11/21, Cohen & Cook 2020 Almanac).
Albany, NY native Elise Stefanik grew up in that city where her parents ran a wholesale plywood business. She received her 2006 undergraduate degree at Harvard University, where she became politically active. After graduating Harvard, Stefanik landed a job with W Bush’s Domestic Policy Council and worked for W’s second Chief-of-Staff Josh Bolten. She later joined GOP Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 presidential campaign as policy director. When Pawlenty withdrew, Stefanik worked for then Cong. Paul Ryan(R-WI) when he became Mitt Romney’s running mate. She advised Ryan on his vice-presidential debate preparation against then Dem. VP Joe Biden (Cohen & Cook 2020, Hagerty, M., postar.com, 5/04/14, CQ 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips).
After the incumbent moderate Democrat decided not to run in 2014, Stefanik ran for this seat. Stefanik won her primary and clobbered her underfunded Democratic opponent by 21 points. When she took office in 1/2015, she was then the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. With Democrats not competing hard in the 21st CD in the 2016 and 2018 campaigns, Stefanik cruised to re-election. In 2016, Stefanik supported Donald once he won the GOP nomination, but tried to keep her “distance” from him. She stated she would be “an independent voice for the district.” She voiced occasional criticism of Donald. In 2020, she was re-elected with 59% of the vote (CQ 117th Cong. At Your Fingertips, Cohen & Cook 2020, Kenmore, A., 5/22/19, adirondackdailyenterprise.com).
In the House, Cong. Stefanik was active in recruiting GOP women to run for office. Cong. Stefanik, however, was far from a GOP hard-right stalwart. According to the conservative Heritage Action Group, Stefanik’s lifetime voting score is 48%, Cheney’s is 80%. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth gave Stefanik a 35% lifetime rating, 4th worst in the House GOP. The 538 analysts show that Cong. Stefanik voted with Donald 77.7% of the time, while Cheney did so 92.9% of the time (cnn.com, Cillizza, 5/07/21). So why did Stefanik sew up the race to replace purged Cheney? Stefanik made national headlines for her “over-the-top” defense of Donald in his first impeachment concerning withholding aid to Ukraine. She and wacko Devin Nunes (R-CA) then tag-teamed Dem. impeachment leader Adam Schiff (D-CA). Stefanik falsely stated that Schiff had “gagged her” and fellow GOPers trying to defend Donald (Blake, washingtopost.com, 11/15/19, Rupar, vox.com, 11/15/19). Stefanik tweeted a fundraising appeal with a hideous photo of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) making her look like a horror movie monster (rawstory.com, Boggioni, 1/09/20). Trump immediately tweeted that Stefanik was “A new Republican Star. Great going @Elise Stefanik!” Her fundraising skyrocketed. Stefanik won a speaking slot at the 2020 GOP Convention where she gushingly praised Donald (latimes.com, Hook, J., 5/06/21). After the 1/06/2021 attempted Capitol coup, Stefanik again repeated her pro-Trump performance opposing impeachment. She ridiculously attacked the Dems. for fueling divisions. Even after the 1/06/21 insurrection in which Congressmembers had to flee for their lives, Stefanik voted to overturn PA’s electoral votes for Biden. She supported an absurd TX-led lawsuit to overthrow millions of votes in battleground states for Biden. She additionally “fully supported” a controversial GOP-led effort in AZ. In AZ, Trump loyalists are looking for pieces of bamboo under microscopes to argue that fake ballots helping Biden win the Grand Canyon State were cast in China (See cnn.com, Foran, Raju, & Wilson, 5/06/21)!
Yes, Stefanik voted against Trump’s regressive top 1% tax cut bill. Yes, Stefanik has far from a stellar hard-right record. But then neither did Trump. He was once pro-choice and once a Democrat. He formerly even praised and financially supported Hillary.Yet Trump turned on a dime and so did Stefanik. As analyst Chris Cillizza aptly noted, the “dirty little secret” to advancing in the modern GOP is to just publicly and loudly praise and defend Donald to the hilt. One’s prior stands on anything else mean absolutely nothing. As Cillizza stated, “Trumpism has nothing to do with policy—conservative or otherwise. It is a cult of personality, plain and simple (cnn.com, 5/07/21).” It’s IMHO “Trump, Trump, uber alles.”
There has been some pushback to the Cheney purge. More than 100 GOPers, including some former elected officials released a letter threatening to form a third party unless the GOP breaks Trump’s stranglehold on it (nytimes.com, Montague, Z., 5/11/21). However, don’t count on this resistance going too far. Frankly, too many GOPers fear a third party would give victories to the Democrats. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) correctly noted that expelling Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but “lose us quite a few (cnn.com, Cillizza, 5/11/21).” Already, according to the Washington Post, swing districts of middle class and college-educated voters are giving Trump underwater ratings and strongly backing Biden, analysis the GOP is trying to cover up for fear of hurting its 2022 midterm prospects. However, Democrats can’t count on the GOP to destroy itself alone with this Trump/anti-Trump civil war. There is an upcoming 6/01/2021 special N. Mexico election to replace Dem. Rep. Deb Haaland, now Biden’s Sec. of Interior. If we don’t show up in droves in N. Mexico, or in the 2022 midterms, Kevin McCarthy’s strategy of playing to his delusional Trump backing base will give him the Speaker’s gavel. Biden’s progressive and popular agenda will then be dead. We must say “NO” to Trump, McCarthy, and Stefanik where it counts, at the polls. Our democracy depends upon it.